Bryant Neighborhoods Pull Together, Go Green (Green Initiatives | Winner, Between 5,000-20,000)

It’s not uncommon in any city for political issues to develop two sides. It’s how government works. But bipartisan efforts in Bryant to make the city “Go Green” has paid off for everyone with lower waste costs, better communication and a cleaner environment.

“What I have noticed from my involvement with citizens of Bryant, its leaders and supporting partners is that people are extremely supportive and ready to help when an opportunity presents itself that benefits the community,” said Ben Wilson, community development manager for Bryant. “This is the kind of attitude I think that attracts people to this area and makes it so successful.”

The success has paid off with Bryant winning the 2013 Arkansas Business City of Distinction Green Initiatives category for cities of its population size.

Bryant City Hall worked with the Saline County Regional Solid Waste Management District to place recycle bins throughout the building. These were single-stream receptacles that didn’t need its contents sorted out at the initial time of disposal. The cans were picked up and emptied on a more frequent schedule. The county’s waste management even provides Bryant with a collection site for hazardous waste items.

The actions of Bryant’s city government toward conservation and sustainability extend well past its municipal offices. Bryant Parks & Recreation manages the facilities at Bishop Park. The indoor Aquatic Center there is popular for its lap and therapy pools. With a capacity of 312,000 gallons of water which can evaporate three times over the span of a year, the department keeps costs down with some unique procedures. Its Pool Pak Air System collects condensation and stores it inside an underground tank. Once it’s treated, the water gets returned to the pools. This saves the city over 900,000 gallons of water a year.

Other procedures handled at the Aquatic Center include heating the pools with the warmth generated by the units handling other operations and the center’s splash pad for kids utilizing a recycling water treatment system instead of the usual “use once then drain” design. All of the projects at the Aquatic Center were funded by an issued bond.

The neighborhoods of Bryant have found common bonds with grassroots organizations helping to conserve energy, lower costs and eliminate pollution. Through a partnership with the city of Bryant, Meagan Vanderpool and other citizen volunteers have launched Keep Bryant Beautiful (KBB). Collaborating with Mayor Jill Dabbs, KBB developed a plan to conduct town hall meetings in 2012, educating the public on the new program. The city also promotes KBB activities on its website and monthly newsletter. Earlier this year, KBB members cleaned up and removed nearly five tons of waste from the city.

The public works department in partnership with KBB launched the Adopt-a-Street program in February 2013. Volunteers from civic organizations, social clubs, neighborhood associations, families, churches, school groups and businesses were invited to apply. Much like the state’s adopt-a-highway program, approved applicants get their name put on a sign with an agreement that the stretch of area would be cleaned a minimum of four times per year.

Adoption has been steady since the program’s inception and groups such as Boy Scouts of America, the Lions Club, and the Mayor’s Youth Council were early adopters. So far, the majority of adopters have been families taking pride in their own street. This program is funded through the general budget for public works.

BONAfide is another organization recently launched with assistance from the city. With its letters standing for “Bryant Organized Neighborhood Association For Improving Development & Environment, BONAfide’s focus has been placed on helping citizens organize into individual groups so they could address issues important to their particular neighborhood. Each group has three leaders who connect to other members by phone or email chain to promote neighborhood beautification and clean-up projects.

Bryant has made great strides in conservation through these projects, community organizations, street adoption programs and more. Its efforts have led Bryant being recognized as Government Recycler of the Year by the Arkansas Recycling Coalition. Most importantly, a 2012 community survey revealed that 85 percent of residents supported the recycling programs.

The success of any community depends on how invested the people are in the community,” said Mayor Jill Dabbs. “Providing a means to get involved through organizations is a positive way to nurture sense of ‘Place.’ Once people begin to work together and see the positive impacts their efforts wrought, it naturally leads to healthier, more vital communities.”

As it turns out, going green is a concept everyone seems to be able to agree upon.